Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore owner Don Blyly sent an update to subscribers on August 6 sharing how complicated it is simply to get the wreckage of his two stores torn down.
Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore and Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore were burned by vandals on May 30 while protests were happening elsewhere in Minneapolis.
To date the GoFundMe started to Help Save Uncle Hugo’s has raised $163,088 of the $500,000 goal amount.
The complete text of the update is here.
IT TAKES TIME TO PULL PERMITS. The city has to give permission for the demolition.
A couple of weeks ago I hired a company to handle the demolition and debris removal at the Uncles site. I asked the guy when the work could be done. He warned me that even in the best of times Minneapolis never issued a demolition permit in less than 30 days, and these are not the best of times. But he got the ball rolling to get the permit. (For those who remember when the Robert’s Shoes building at the corner of Chicago and Lake burned to the ground about 3 years ago, it took the owner 4 months to get a permit to haul away the debris. Every time he thought he had provided every possible piece of paper to the city, they would demand something new.)
THE DENTIST IS ALREADY DRILLING. A neighboring business is making life complicated.
I’ve written before about the dental clinic being built in 1995 using my firewall as his firewall, which worked fine until the Uncles burned to the ground. Suddenly, the new owner of the dental clinic wanted my firewall down as fast as possible so that he could repair his wall and get his business running again. I took down the front half of the wall by hand using a hammer and crow bar on the century-old mortar, but I knew that the back half would require machinery to take down. The dentist called late last Thursday to say that his contractor said that the back half of my wall next to his wall would have to come down within the next 10 days for the contractor to get his work done on time. I explained about the demolition permit and that we would not have the permit within the next 10 days…
On Friday I explained this to my contractor, who wanted to meet with me and the dental clinic contractor at the site sometime on Monday to look over the situation and the proposed solution….
On Monday I took a carload of mail orders to the post office at 9 am and then went to the Uncles site to take measurements to be able to do a site map of the Uncles as the building was before the fire. The dental clinic contractor had already used his bobcat, but not at all like I had been told he would. He did not go through the clinic. Instead, he took down the entire back wall of the back room (which I was assured he would not touch), scooped up most of the debris in the back room and lifted it over the wall into the Uncle Edgar’s space (thereby knocking down much of the Uncle Edgar’s side wall and back wall to about the 4 foot level), and then took down the back room wall next to the clinic and pushed it over next to the Uncle Edgar’s wall. When I arrived, a workman was busy taking down the dental clinic wall and tossing it into Uncle Hugo’s basement. When I complained about this, he claimed that he would pick it all up and put it in the clinic’s dumpster whenever a new dumpster was delivered. Three days later the clinic’s dumpster has been replaced, but the clinic just keeps tossing more of their debris into Uncle Hugo’s basement and hasn’t removed any of the sheet rock tossed in there on Monday.
GOT TO PAY THE PROPERTY TAX, BUT HOW MUCH? When your property has burned down, it’s only fair that it be reassessed for a lower value.
One of the things necessary to get a demolition permit is that the entire year’s property tax must bepaid before the permit can be issued. Half of the year’s property tax is due May 15 (and was paid) and the second half is due by October 15. But Minneapolis publicized that they would be reducing the property tax for the second half of the year for buildings destroyed or significantly damaged during the rioting. I filled out the form on-line in early July, and the city promised that a tax assessor would contact me within 3 business days. Nobody ever contacted me, so on July 20 I tried to contact the city assessor’s office.
…My on-line form had arrived, but around 800 properties had requested re-assessment because of damage from the riot and the work-from-home staff was simply overwhelmed with work. The city assessor’s office had until the beginning of September to complete those 800 re-assessments and send new figures to Hennepin County so that they could come up with new property tax figures. …Certainly not an ideal situation, but I now know that I should pay the higher tax now to move a step closer to the demolition permit, and hope someday to get a partial refund.
NOBODY TURNED OFF THE WATER? Apparently, in Uncle Hugo’s debris-filled basement, the water has been leaking for two months.
I eventually received a water bill for the store, forwarded to my home (which seems to added about 7-10 days). It charged me for estimated water and sewer volumes from 6-12-20 to 7-12-20, but demanded that I call them to arrange for a meter reading. I called and explained that the building was burnt to the ground on May 30, the water meter was in the basement under many feet of rubble, and I assumed that they had turned off the water when the fire struck, just like the electrical company and the gas company had done. The first person I talked to assured me that the water had not been turned off, and that the water had probably been pouring out of a broken pipe in the basement for over 2 months, so my water bill would probably be much higher than the estimated bill….
WINDING UP THE BUSINESS. This would be complicated anyway, but now the pandemic is affecting everyone.
It is taking longer than I expected to get matters cleared up with some publishers. Immediately after the fire the publishers were all asked to put the account on hold so that no orders could be shipped to us until we were ready, cancel all the old purchase orders that had not yet been sent, and change the address from the store address to my home address to speed up communications. Then, when a new monthly statement came in I would look for invoices that we might not have received (dated late May) and request copies of them so that I could determine if we had received them.
Both UPS and the post office stopped delivering to much of south Minneapolis after May 26 because of the riots. … UPS simply returned to sender every package addressed to the Uncles and over 100 other businesses, but some of the warehouses the boxes were returned to were short-handed because of covid-19 and took months to issue credits… It was a real mess trying to figure out what I really owed and send out checks. …I hope that within another month I’ll have everything cleaned up with the cooperative publishers
A MAN AND HIS DOG. Don Blyly’s dog, who comes from a long-lived breed, misses the store.
…If Ecko lives to be 20, that means she’ll still be dragging me around on half-mile walks when I’m 81. I’m not sure what to think about that. But she really misses going to the store and greeting people.